New and established minority languages and identities: essentialism, appropriation and multiplicity in Catalonia.

Marshall, Steve

Simon Fraser University, Canada

WS170: Multilingual societies, identities and globalization: rethinking language, migration and identity

Globalization and new migration have brought new and established minority languages and identities into contact in many European cities. In certain places, large numbers of new migrant speakers of European languages of the “new world” are arriving in regions of Europe with their own established national linguistic minorities. The sociolinguistic situation in Catalonia is one such example, where members of the established Catalan-speaking linguistic minority within the Spanish state are now interacting with new migrant speakers of many other world languages. Interactions between Catalan-speakers and Spanish-speaking Latin Americans are of particular interest in terms of inter-group interaction and its role in multilingual identity construction: Spanish-speaking Latin Americans are speakers of allochthonous marked varieties of the official majority language of the Spanish state; they are in many cases identified as Latin American, through appearance or accent, by other interlocutors; and they are arriving in Catalonia during a key stage of the linguistic normalization of the Catalan language. This complex postcolonial sociolinguistic situation not only challenges language planners and language educators, it also challenges many analytic paradigms in the fields of sociolinguistics and identity formation.

I present data from a study carried out between 2000 and 2004 in and around Barcelona. The methodology involved interviews with 44 participants, of whom 35 were Latin American, about their language use and processes of identity formation. Eleven of the participants then recorded their language use along their daily life paths, intentionally using Catalan in some instances. In follow-up interviews, researcher and participant constructs were shared.

I suggest that individuals’ processes of identity formation run parallel to paths of migration and paths of knowledge formation, along which individuals’ epistemologies evolve, determining sociolinguistic practice. The data also show a spectrum of rich and diverse processes of multilingual identity formation. Participants’ descriptions of their processes of identity formation combine several of the following aspects: [i] aspects of past and present; [ii] aspects of ‘here’, ‘there’ and ‘nowhere’; [iii] terms of identity ascription of self and other that combine country of origin, Latin American-ness, and languages (Spanish, Castilian and Catalan); and [iv] a wide range of (re)constructed identities: entrenched essentialism; selective appropriation of ‘other’ identities; identities of convenience; and flexible, transnational, multiple identities.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Multilingual societies, identities and globalization: rethinking language, migration and identity
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 02